BY MARK A. DeSORBO
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The days of Moore's Law with silicon dioxide are numbered.
That's the consensus among researchers at Intel Corp., who have discovered two new materials they say will allow some of the most serious obstacles in chip making to be tackled triumphantly in a never-ending quest to shrink substrate geometries.
Intel researchers Robert Chau, Suman Datta, Mark Doczy, Jack Kavalieros and Matthew Metz claim they have developed record-setting, high-performance transistors using a new material, called high-k, for the gate dielectric and new metal materials for the transistor gate.
Researchers at Intel say they have developed breakthrough transistor technologies that will alleviate power and heat ratios associated with current chip manufacturing materials.
Transistors are the microscopic, silicon-based switches that process the ones and zeros of the digital world. The gate turns the transistor on and off and the gate dielectric is an insulator underneath it that controls the flow of electric current.
Together, the new gate and gate dielectric materials help drastically reduce current leakage that leads to reduced battery power and generates unwanted heat. Intel says the new high-k material reduces leakage by more than 100 times over the silicon dioxide (SiO2).
Researchers have found that replacing SiO2 with the thicker, high-k material in the gate dielectric will make for a faster, more efficient technology.
Revamping two fundamental elements of its transistor—the gate and the dielectric—to increase speed and performance, however, does not require any changes to any of the cleanroom manufacturing environments, says Kari Skoog, an Intel spokesperson.
“There are no new cleanroom requirements to put this type of transistor into manufacturing,” she says. “There are no specific micro-contamination concerns with the new materials… .We design our cleanrooms with future technology requirements in mind so we can maximize return on the investment we make in our fabs.”